Revisit The Height Of DTM Touring Car Racing With This Period-Correct Footage At The Nürburgring
The touring car racing that took place between the mid 1980s and the early 1990s was some of the best in the world, and especially in Germany. The Group A-based era of the DTM—from 1984 to 1992—saw an international cadre of factory-backed and outright works teams competing in front of crowds that rivaled grand prix attendance, with grids made up of a considerably faster group of cars than was competing in any other touring car championship at the time.
Almost all of the cars that defined the DTM back then have aged gracefully into youngtimer collector status today, and although the modern bewinged and canard-covered Audis and Mercs and Bimmers from the most recent championship season are far more technologically impressive than their predecessors, able-brained enthusiasts will agree that the first decade of DTM competition was the definitive one, the golden era to which all others are compared. The cars could take a hit without having to limp to the pits, and they still resembled their road-going counterparts (even when you went beneath the bodywork). Homologation specials like BMW’s first M3 and the Cosworth-engined Merc 190Es have become iconic sport sedans of their time for good reason.
The greatest thing about the series though was how competitive and active it was—even if you don’t like the big fiberglass wings and boxy lines, close, door-banging racing makes for great entertainment. Everyone who’s chosen a team to root for likes to pretend that that car was the one that dominated, but in the ten-year period between 1984 and 1993 the driver championships were earned using seven unique manufacturers: Volvo, Rover, BMW, Ford, Audi, Mercedes-Benz, and Alfa Romeo.
The DTM began to decline in competitiveness and participation in 1993 without the BMW or Audi works teams participation. The FIA had introduced a more liberal “Class 1” rulebook for the new season, and over the next few years lost participants in large part because of increased development costs adding to a general financial equation that made less and less sense until the series went dormant after the 1996 season until reemerging in 2000 in a new format once again. That’s not to say anything negative about the car that dominated the new format in 1993—Alfa’s 155 V6 TI, also the most winning DTM car of all time—but 1992 was the ultimate evolution of the original DTM. With Audi having been penalized for a trick crankshaft design and quitting halfway through the 1992 season as a result, Mercedes-Benz continued to develop the Evolution II version of the 190E and handily won the driver’s and manufacturer’s championships—the top three driver rankings at the end of the year all drove Evo IIs.
I’ll be testing out a new weekly series on vintage automotive videos in the coming months, and thought the one embedded above would be a good place to start. It’s coverage from both heats of round six of the 1992 season, and takes place of the full Nordschleife with in-car views, chopper shots, and pit access. I don’t expect everyone to watch the full 54 minutes, but I did, twice, and picked out some “highlights” for you below (click the time stamps to be linked to the section):
- :21 — Hans-Joachim Stuck leaning next to his beached Audi during the crash montage at :21 (plus the whole period-correct intro sequence in general)
- 7:42 — A track marshal in his safety-orange gear spits a loogie and then seems to stare down the camera once he realizes it might have been caught on film.
- 11:45 — A daisy chain of BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes get airborne in the Pflanzgarten in slow, wheel-wobbling motion.
- 16:05 — Two of the most famous drivers (Johnny Cecotto and Klaus Ludwig) in two of the most famous cars in two of the most famous liveries have a bit of one-on-one in action on one of the most famous tracks in the world—when people talk about the DTM glory days, this is it in a nutshell. If you keep watching until 16:52, you can see the plaid cloth door inserts left inside the Mercedes.
- 21:13 — Roberto Ravaglia demonstrates the M3’s rallying potential, and then Hans-Joachim Stuck does the same with his Audi to show the advantages of four driving wheels.
- 30:05 — We see the spitter marshall from the 7:45 mark again, now looking comfortable all leaned up against the hill instead of standing and spitting.
- 50:45 — When the helicopter camera operator gets one of the craft’s skids in the shot, it adds a sense of realism to the fantasy of being that guy. It helps you get a sense of what view would feel like instead of just look like.
- And now for some of the best quotes from the hard-working (seriously) but rather dry narrator, Milt Fitzwater:
- 18:15 — the way he says “Cecotto” is just terrific. He likes putting some extra flair on it whenever he says it, but here more than the other instances.
- 18:56 — “For Klaus Ludwig this season has been good (pause) and it’s also been bad.”
- 29:28 — “There are corners here where they get down to first gear and there are also corners where they’re going through in fifth gear. (pause) This course offers something for just about everybody.” No matter your favorite gear, they’re all used here!
- 33:57 — “A different time, a different type of driver: Juan Manuel Fangio, and there are those bushes we talked about earlier.” He is referring to a quip made during the first heat about the bushes being where the guardrails are now.
Over the coming weeks we’ll be revisiting some of our favorite vintage race footage, commercials, and more—if you have any recommendations, don’t be shy!